Life As Immigrant At The Notorious Pantanella In Via Casilina Rome

Ex Pastificio Pantanella occupato da centinaia di immigrati asiatici provenienti dal Pakistan e Bangladesh.Ex Pastificio Pantanella occupied by hundreds of Asian immigrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Roma Novembre 1990 Ex Pastificio Pantanella occupato da centinaia di immigrati asiatici provenienti dal Pakistan, Bangladesh, Africani tra cui (Joel Savage) Panoramica della Pantanella. Rome

As a child growing up in a strongly religious family, I was thought that everything which is opposite to the teachings of the Holy Bible, including laziness is a sin. I tried my best to live a clean life. We were thought to believe that Israel, Jerusalem, and other Biblical countries were all in heaven, without a slight knowledge those countries were on the same earth we are living today.

When I left my family looking for a job, I tried to be sincere and prevented doing anything wrong which could land me in jail. I read that jail changes people’s attitude to be good or worse. But I wasn’t interested to know the positive or negative influences of jail on people. My only interest is never to be there because it’s not the right place for me.

In the year 1990, from Lagos, Nigeria, I made a transit in Rome, on my way to German. In Rome, I was detained at the Fiumicino airport. The Italian immigration regularly does that to many foreigners, especially Africans. Like a tourist, I walked around the airport lounge without a room to sleep and food for three days. On the third, I was really starving, so I approached one of the immigration officials and said to him that I am hungry. He looked at my face and asked me “Am I your father?” Then he walked away.

Without knowing what the officials have in store for me, I handed over an application for asylum as a journalist and it worked, because I have some few publications over my profession on me. On the fourth day, from nowhere came one of the immigration officers, he said to me: “Your application has been accepted, today the police will come to take you to Rome.” I was shocked beyond expression.

Ex Pastificio Pantanella occupato da centinaia di immigrati asiatici provenienti dal Pakistan e Bangladesh.Ex Pastificio Pantanella occupied by hundreds of Asian immigrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Roma 31 gennaio 1991 Ex Pastificio Pantanella occupato da centinaia di immigrati asiatici provenienti dal Pakistan e Bangladesh. Le forze dell’Ordine sgombrano la Pantanella. Rome, January 31, 1991 Ex Pastificio Pantanella occupied by hundreds of Asian immigrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Police evacuate the Pantanella.

 The good Samaritan didn’t only deliver the unexpected message, but he pulled out from his pocket a number of notes and said to me: “I don’t want my colleagues to see me giving you money, buy some food to eat at the airport.” I didn’t take the money. I told him: “This important information you have given to me has taken all the hunger away, thank you.” He walked away with his money.

On the fourth day, the police came, just as the officer told me and took me in a police car to the city, Rome, and left me there to fight for my survival. Without anywhere to sleep, I passed all my nights at the Central Train Station. Among other Africans, we watched a big television screen during the day to forget our misery, then in the night, I go to sleep at my hiding place. The police and the workers at the train station never discovered the place I slept.

After some time, I discovered places where I could eat every day without paying for food. I could take my bath and take some clothes. One of such places was at ‘Via Dandolo.’ Daniela, the head of the Caritas (Charity) at Via Dandolo, was a very good woman, but one of her female workers was a very bad woman. A thief. Since we had no address, our letters passed through the Caritas at Via Dandola and this woman took the opportunity to steal money from our letters.

I caught her twice, so I wasn’t surprised when I lost the 10 pounds a friend sent me from England, but I didn’t tell Daniela about it. Through the Caritas, I had my initial lessons and attended classes to learn the Italian. I was one of the best immigrants who could write and speak the language fluently, yet my life was miserable because I was still sleeping at the train station.

In Rome, I was robbed, admitted and operated at a hospital, but the nurse refused to touch me, because of my color, thus; every morning when on duty, she calls someone to attend to me, but she had time for every Italian patient at the hospital. I was once sitting in the hospital’s garden after the operation, when an Italian old man, one of the patients came close to me, looked at my face and said to me: “Marocchino motaccizoa.” – an insult, after mistakenly taken me as a Moroccan. I didn’t say a word.

Then all of a sudden, as if it was announced on the radio, all the immigrants in Rome, without accommodation, discovered an abandoned Pasta factory called ‘Pantanella.’ Pantanella is notoriously known for all criminal activities, including drug peddling and crime, similar to drug cartel zones of Mexico. One needs strength, courage, heart and braveness to survive at that place. Italians think they are brave, but many of them dare to pass Via Casilina, the street Pantanella is located in the night.

That was the place I lived and worked as a toilet cleaner for thousands of immigrants, using six containers as toilets, to raise money to feed. I was employed by the Muslim head at the place. It’s terrible and frightening to live at Pantenella. It wasn’t a prison, but the place, I think was tough like Alcatraz, because of the criminal activities many illegal immigrants engaged in feeding.

 

Ex Pastificio Pantanella occupato da centinaia di immigrati asiatici provenienti dal Pakistan e Bangladesh.Ex Pastificio Pantanella occupied by hundreds of Asian immigrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Roma 31 gennaio 1991 Ex Pastificio Pantanella occupato da centinaia di immigrati asiatici provenienti dal Pakistan e Bangladesh. Le forze dell’Ordine sgombrano la Pantanella. Scoppia un incendio durante lo sgombero Rome, January 31, 1991 Ex Pastificio Pantanella occupied by hundreds of Asian immigrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Police evacuate the Pantanella.A fire during the evacuation

The abandoned factory accommodated both soft and hardened criminals from various countries, including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Africa etc. I lived in Pantanella for four months, and the Italian government tired of the crimes going on in that abandoned Pasta factory ejected all the foreigners.

But the Italian government did something great for the African immigrants. Something we weren’t expecting. The government paid for two weeks stay in a hotel for all the Africans, with the ultimatum that before the two weeks expired, we should find a place on our own to live.

Through a very good sympathetic woman called Nana, (she died in Rome a few years ago) I got a job as a houseboy to serve one journalist called Claudio Lavazza, working at television station TG2, belonging to the former Italian Prime Minister, Sylvio Berlusconi. He provided me accommodation and paid me well. Besides, he gave me the new version of Fiat Cinque Cento (500) to drive. It may be likely that I was the first black man in the entire Italy to drive the new Fiat Cinque Cento when it freshly came out. I met other journalist friends of Claudio, including Michele Cucuzza.

After three years, I said goodbye to Rome and returned to Africa. I married and returned to Europe once again but this time choosing Amsterdam. ‘Overseas Chronicle: The Rome and Amsterdam Experience’ is a book once started you’ll find it hard to put away, because of the shocking intriguing stories in the book. Find out more of what happened to me in Rome and later in Holland, which led me to detention in Amsterdam.

 

Come sono sopravvissuto come un immigrato nella Pantanella pericoloso può essere letto in: 
Chronicle 3

More Hatred For Foreigners In Belgium Aftermath The France Attacks

MoroccoNot every Moroccan or Muslim is a terrorist and not every African is a criminal, but whenever terrorists strike or an African commits a crime, all eyes are on foreigners as criminals or  terrorists. 

The recent  events in France; leaving dozens dead in shootings and explosions, have generated pure hatred to foreigners in Belgium. Belgium is a country integration is very poor, compared to other European countries, yet they do their best for foreigners

According to a Moroccan woman who visited the hospital with her daughter, the day terrorists attacked France, she saw the anger on the face of the doctor who was attending her child. At one point her daughter’s head hit an object when the doctor lifts up the child.

At work, she greets but no one responds. It was really a psychological torture for her to find herself in the center of such hatred, when she wasn’t part of France attacks or not a terrorist.

Once listening to a radio debate over Muslims in Brussels, a man suggested that the Muslim community in Brussels needs a swimming pool for Muslims alone.  This Moroccan woman who doesn’t agree to what the man said, called to tell the man “You are in Belgium, go to Morocco and build your swimming pool there.”

Unfortunately, after the France attacks, she is now a victim of hatred, with many others, because she is a Moroccan. It’s completely wrong to hate someone over crime other people commit. I don’t hate any European for all the bad things they did against Africa, thus; I wouldn’t be happy for someone to hate me, because of a crime a foreigner commits.

Secret Son

A 30-year old Moroccan Arab, Nabil Amrani, gets entangled in an adulterous relationship with his pregnant wife’s nurse, Rachida, and this results in pregnancy. To save the honor of her family, Nabil’s mother sacks the nurse. Nabil gives her some money to go get an abortion. All this is kept a secret from Malika, Nabil’s legitimate wife.

SON 2

Malika gives birth to a girl, Amal. Initially the gender issue does not matter to Nabil, but later on when the subject of inheritance surfaces, it becomes an issue and Nabil regrets not having a son. When fired, Rachida relocates to Casablanca, keeps the pregnancy and five months after Amal is born, she gives birth to a son, Youssef. Nobody, not even Nabil, is aware of this.

Rachida does not tell her son who his real father is, but one day the boy confronts his mother and learns the truth. He decides to trace his father, who though surprised to learn that he has a secret son, is somewhat relieved that he has a male offspring to inherit his business empire.

All the while, Nabil’s daughter Amal grows up thinking that she is the only offspring of her father. At some point in time she goes to the USA to get some education. While there she moves in with Fernando, a photographer. Her parents find this out and get furious for, according to them, she has caused a clash of cultures and brought dishonor to her family.

A yawning emotional gulf develops between parents, on one side, and daughter, on the other side. But at the time of her graduation, they visit her, try to persuade her to break up the relationship and to return to Morocco. She accedes to their wish. During this visit Nabil confesses to his daughter the affair he had several years ago, a secret that Malika had by then learned. Nabil’s confession infuriates her daughter and makes her depressed.

Just when Youssef is beginning to enjoy his new life with his father, disaster strikes, thanks to the orchestrations of his stepmother Malika.  He is forced to return to the slums where he grew up, where he is welcomed by the sympathy of his mother and the taunts of his friend, Amin.

A running theme in the novel is the political rivalry between Hatim Lahlou of the Party, which seemed to represent the poor class, and Farid Benaboud, who represents the world of the wealthy – the world into which Youssef has been brutally denied entry and which he now loathes. Youssef falls prey to the politics around him, when Hatim recruits him to carry out an assassination plot.

An enthralling read, Secret Son, provides a window into Moroccan society – a society that has its share of ills, from unemployment to adultery.  The story explores the importance of love and family and how exclusion, poverty and unemployment can drive victims to acts of desperation.

The Author

Laila

Laila Lalami was born and raised in Morocco. She is the author of the short story collection Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award, and the novel Secret Son, which was on the Orange Prize longlist.

Her essays and opinion pieces have appeared in Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, The Nation, the Guardian, the New York Times, and in numerous anthologies.

She is the recipient of a British Council Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, and a Lannan Foundation Residency Fellowship and is currently an associate professor of creative writing at the University of California at Riverside. Her new novel, The Moor’s Account, will be published in September 2014.

http://www.amazon.com/Laila-Lalami/e/B001H6ET12